You don't have to settle for shitty bosses. You are allowed to have as much free time as you want and afford, and if I want to spend some of it watching TV, then pretentious twits can kiss my ass.
What I did wish I knew was that the most precious part of youth is in fact the social, romantic, and sexual opportunities. If I would have known then what I know now: that all my appeal to women would somehow vanish in my thirties and that I'd experience nothing but romantic rejection for years, I would have planned my life extremely differently. Anyone who says you can take for granted that men have it easier in their thirties is full of shit.
The single most important thing I should have done in youth would have been to optimize my chances for sexual and romantic relationships with a chance to last a lifetime. Having this or not (not money) is the difference between years of relative bliss and years of feeling that life is basically fucking pointless.
Yes I'm angry.
I've been reading the guides out there for years and I don't do any of the classic mistakes that I'm aware of. My best guesses are that, in addition to a few physical flaws (nothing major) it's about changing expectations of women. I'm 35 and I look 22 and still act like a kid in some ways and am quite socially awkward. I don't think I have the verbal skills to pull off those moves where you put on a puppet show in order to push the right buttons and fuck women, and that's not what I want anyway. (I'd like nothing more in life than to meet a single woman who was attracted to me and with whom I could be myself with.) I have a personality where I don't take bullshit from anyone and if I'm asked a question I give the answer. Everyone I meet likes me and I hear lines like "You're smart and interesting but I don't know if the chemistry is there" consistently.
I've been doing things like internet dating, speed dating, a salsa classes, and I'm a pretty accomplished singer, and some guys actually have to try pretty hard not to attract women doing these things!
In my case, this would have been to ignore pretentious fuckwads who say how difficult life is. It's easy. The hard part (for me, not necessarily you) is impressing women, and it's also the single largest thing affecting long term happiness. Perhaps there are some young people (not all) who would benefit from hearing this, because you don't hear it very much.
Hacking awkwardness away.
Rather, my advice to teens would be: "Just hang in there and try to make good decisions when you can. Your life is one big transition, and transitions are hard. Be assured, life will get much better when you come out the other side."
In this case, there are a few important truths so slathered over with condescension and scorn that as a teenager, I would have no choice but to rebel. The author forgets, that rebelling is not simple petulance, but is the final stage of individuation.
I get the impression the author here has a bone to pick, most likely due to personal regrets or fears, and is turning to browbeating where mentorship is called for.
Most of that isn't generation specific and covers most of the past 50 years.
I guess I read this more as old wisdom that people coming of age should think about -- it reminds me a bit of that song "Wear Sunscreen" that came out a couple of years after this. Sure, the advice isn't necessarily original, but that doesn't mean it's not worth being aware of or thinking about once in a while.
As I was reading this, I thought this might be something I'd hand to my 8 year-old to read some day. Not because I think he's an lazy ingrate, just because it seems like interesting food for thought.
- Flipping burgers is "opportunity."
Yes, maybe in the past a strong recommendation from a manager at a high school job could help you get a post-graduation job. Today, do any colleges even consider this? In the time you work flipping burgers, you could just as easily become leader of 12 after-school activities that look "impressive" on a resume.
Who's to blame for that? Today's lazy kids? Or the generation of boomer hiring managers and admissions committees who look for "upside potential" instead of work ethic?
- Bosses will expect you to work harder than teachers.
Not in my experience. Most of my college-graduate friends have post-graduation jobs where they have no impact on the company's success, and do mostly busywork filling out forms and going through the motions. Flipping burgers, at least you can show some hustle, being nicer and faster and more careful than your peers. Same in most tech jobs. But if your job is to fill out paperwork and answer the phones and no one supervises you, how do you measure doing "better"? And why care if your supervisor can't tell either?
So who is to blame here? Lazy kids? Or boomer corporate structures that doesn't give junior employees even the smallest responsibility for trying hard, doesn't mentor them to work harder or more intelligently, and then promotes those people into management jobs where they continue to not help the next generation?
I think the real problem here is the Boomers: they rejected the idea of listening to their parents' generation when they entered the workforce, and they seriously screwed things up. Today, most businesses expect a high school or college grad to already know how to work hard, how to give good customer service, how to prioritize business goals. Where would they have learned this? Historically, by working a job in school and then being intensively trained when they start full time. Today, there is no similar process unless you go into a field controlled by a strong professional society (doctor, pilot, etc.).
Go find an old 1920's or 50's book (or instructional video) on management. The younger employee, although not comptent or hard-working, is thought of as a project that the manager has to look in on, give advice to, occasionally challenge. How many places today will spend that time on someone just out of high school or college?
It's not about being grateful for a burger flipping job, it's about taking the burger flipping job when you need to.
For example, my first consulting gig was set to rake in about $5k a month, but since I didn't know that you can ask for a deposit I had to wait until the end of the first month to get paid. I had enough money saved up to cover rent, but I still needed food money so I worked nights for a month as a delivery guy at Papa John's for the tips.
Funny thing was I busted my ass (cleaning grease traps and doing all of the other stuff none of the teenagers wanted to do), because I knew I was only going to be working there for a month, and doing mindless work with my hands was a nice break from writing ActionScript. I actually felt bad when I quit, because the manager offered me a $1.25/hour raise to try to get me to stay, haha (that's actually pretty generous for a minimum wage hourly job).
Anyway, that lesson is something I've spent a lot of time trying to teach my little brothers, as they tend to try to wait for the perfect job to come along. There's absolutely nothing wrong with taking a job that you feel is "beneath you", while you look for something better. I think it's more "beneath me" to sit on my ass all day being broke than it is to clean grease traps.
I wish we could convince more kids to do it, and more adults to take it seriously.
Sure does make you appreciate a nice desk job!
Most college application forms have, in addition to after-school activities, a section for employment history. I don't know how much it counts for, but it's not ignored.
It probably depends on the school. Perhaps in some pretty perverse ways.
I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Espenshade and Radford study yet. It's quoted at e.g. http://www.transterrestrial.com/?p=28258 . Apparently "Being an officer or winning awards 'for such career-oriented activities as junior ROTC, 4-H, or Future Farmers of America, say Espenshade and Radford, 'has a significantly negative association with admission outcomes at highly selective institutions.' Excelling in these activities 'is associated with 60 or 65 percent lower odds of admission.'"
The scuttlebutt I'd heard is that Caltech was and is the highly selective school most interested in straight-up academic performance. Anecdotally in the 1980s my grades and SATs and decent MAA contest score and after-school job writing PDP-11 and Z-80 assembly language got me into Caltech, but they sure didn't impress Stanford or MIT. My brother had similar academic qualifications and test scores, but did a lot of photography and ran the yearbook instead of doing much programming, and he got into MIT the next year.
Caltech was my first choice anyway, but my father was an enthusiastic Stanford alumnus, and he was grouchy about me not being admitted. Around my sophomore year at Caltech he sent me a clipping from the alumni newspaper lamenting how Stanford did poorly in the Putnam math contest (http://www.maa.org/awards/putnam.html) and suggesting that alongside all the other baskets for people with nonacademic qualifications, the admissions office create a basket for people who are just extremely academically impressive.
Really? I'm a little surprised that most of your college friends have jobs where their bosses don't care that much about performance. Can you give a few examples?
It's funny, but at the time this was written this was kind of a controversial and insightful statement. Now, it sounds so obvious that it's a cliche. Amazing how quickly culture can change. This was written barely 10 years ago!
I remember working on sites back then that might be considered web apps, and I don't think you could even count on cookies at that time. One experiment I did involved passing data along (part of the URL in a GET, or a continuous set of pages generated via POST requests). Everything done on the server side (even Java applets were problematic: http://www.conman.org/people/spc/refs/search/search.hp1.html).
In truth it wasn't so bad. Markup was more cruder and more troublesome than today with HTML4/5 and CSS2/3 but there's nothing wrong with a simple layout. Cookies couldn't be entirely depended on but you could still keep track of the equivalent with a query parameter that you put into every url. Server side tools were cruder but there was still perl so you didn't have to roll everything on your own out of C (though many web apps in 1996 were written in C/C++). Some of the biggest web companies of today such as amazon and ebay got their start in that era and were already doing big business even back then.
Assuming a crap UI is tolerable for business purposes and assuming that you wouldn't have to market it.
Most likely, you would've used a Java based solution, such as NeXT WebObjects. That's what e-commerce businesses did back then. However, you wouldn't have developed the product on your own. You would've needed a team and plenty of funding, in part because WebObjects came with a $50,000 price tag.
I encourage you to read this WebObjects advertorial from april 1997, courtesy of the Wayback Machine. It's a good illustration of what was considered modern web development:
WebObjects - didn't have any direct experience with that back then, but it and many other proprietary options were quite pricey, IIRC.
The DOM wasn't standard, HTML4 was still in the works. I'm not sure if IE2/3 or Netscape 2 could even dynamically access table elements at the time.
CSS didn't exist at all, your visual styles were either images or elements rendered as the browser saw fit.
XHR didn't exist and wouldn't exist until IE5, 4 years later. There was no way to update a page without a round trip to the server. This was also during the days of AOL and Dialup.
Ugly as sin? Slow as hell? Absolutely. Probably doable, though.
Rule 12 just seems a bit near-sighted and a little "get off my lawn." I see people with spiky colored hair and piercings and I think they look cool; it's because I'm from a different generation. Similarly, smoking used to make you look cool in the previous generation but it's fallen out of favor.
So remember that self-esteem is fine in moderation, don't be naive and think that fairness isn't worth fighting for, and have the spine to stand up for yourself. Even when some self-serving moralizer has a 14-point list of why you should just suck it up.
Because what that list doesn't doesn't tell you is that it's not about rules kids won't learn in school. It's about how no authority figures (including wannabes such as Sykes) will tell you what isn't in their interests for you to know.
I wish I could remember where I heard this..
Two people have to share a cake. The reasonable person asks for half the cake, the unreasonable person asks for the whole cake. They compromise and split the difference - the reasonable person gets quarter of the cake and the unreasonable person gets three quarters.
Quite often people get more in life simply by expecting more than their fair share - and it works as most of us are reasonable.
Apparently most people would be ok with at least a 20% share, getting less than that and they will demand nobody gets any cake.
The more testosterone in your blood, the bigger share you demand. So for example an average guy will want 50% to 60% of the cake, whereas a more alpha male will demand 75% and get away with it because the threshold for "no deal" is 80%.
What this teaches us is: Ask for as much as you can get away with even if it feels utterly wrong.
As long as they're not smart enough to be self-aware of their own bullshit, for then they should treat other people fairly no matter how big and hairy a fucking ape they are.
I wish I could remember where I heard this.
The Talmud actually says, claim the whole, and be satisfied with the half. (Or something along these lines.)
Paraphrase: You think its tough going to school? Try going to work all year with a boss.
He is simply trying to apply his personal life experiences to the masses. My guess is he never become who he dreamed of becoming. His oversimplification of these "universal truths" is annoying, and his arrogant self deluded wisdom can be seen in his final two words....you're welcome.
It looks and feels trite - I know - but there are lessons here that are worth taking on board. In particular, many of the comments are reflected in the more recent advice often given to entrepreneurs and hackers.
Make of it what you will.
2. Self-esteem. School may state that it cares about pupils' self-esteem, but, without stating it, and perhaps without even realising, it tries to crush people's creativity and autonomy. And it often succeeds.
3. $40k. There are plenty of computer programmers who make that much w/o a degree.
4. Bosses are mean. Plenty of those programmers work from home and don't have bosses, or they work for bosses who stay well away.
5. Flipping burgers. Unless you're a creative chef then flipping burgers is beneath your dignity, in the long run. Eventually this will come to be acknowledged by most people, just as having servants is no longer cool. The sooner we get robots to do the flipping, the better.
6. Don't blame parents. Plenty of hang ups are passed from parents to their children via anti-rational memes. I would agree that we shouldn't blame our parents for this. (Blaming is the opposite of problem solving.)
7. Tidiness and bills. People shouldn't worry about tidiness, which, like shaving and personal grooming, isn't intrinsically very important. Ditto spending money on extra cars, expensive clothes and holidays, live sporting events, doing up houses, school fees, etc. Combating lice is a parental responsibility. Stop herding children into schools -- that would probably help!
8. Grades haven't been abolished just yet, although I think they ought to be, because they don't measure anything useful, and they cause a lot of upset.
9. Eight hours work every day. See 3. These programmers choose their own hours. Frequently they enjoy working 12+ hours. And they have long breaks between contracts. If we are optimistic and keep improving then eventually all jobs will be like this.
10. Televisions are physical objects and watching them is part of real life. Art and entertainment are sources of education and inspiration. If somebody is watching TV compulsively, this may be a problem, but it's not a problem to do with TV (maybe he's been damaged by all these rules).
11. Be nice to nerds. Yes! We can judge societies by how they treat nerds. But go further: become a nerd. Become interested in something.
12. Smoking does not make you look cool. Possibly. However, going on and on about this is sufficient to cause young people to take up smoking.
13. Immortal. Why can't I be? I expect Aubrey de Grey will begin repairing my body about 25 years from now. Ultimately I'll be able to start making backups of myself.
14. Enjoy this while you can. Yes, everyone should try to make the best of the situation, however old and wherever they are. Tackling problems is fun. Life is good.
Some rules kids won't learn in school
Text By Charles J. Sykes
Printed in San Diego Union Tribune
September 19, 1996
First off, lets get rid of 'rules.' These are one mans observations on life and don't hold true for everyone, or all the time.
Rule No. 1: Life is not fair. Get used to it. The average teen-ager uses the phrase, "It's not fair" 8.6 times a day. You got it from your parents, who said it so often you decided they must be the most idealistic generation
ever. When they started hearing it from their own kids, they realized Rule No. 1.
The better the world is, the more fair it seems. The world should be fair. But that's not what the author is talking about. The lesson that children don't learn is that it is very difficult to distinguish personal desire from objective fairness. For example, it's not fair that I was born to smart parents, or that I have a nice job and a nice house. But I rarely take the time to consider the gross unfairness of this situation because it benefits me. Learning to see when things are unfair because the world needs to be improved, and when you feel wronged because your desires aren't met is a skill most teenagers lack.
Rule No. 2: The real world won't care as much about your self-esteem as much as your school does. It'll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. This may come as a shock. Usually, when inflated self-esteem meets reality, kids complain it's not fair. (See Rule No. 1)
There is no such thing as the real world, there is only the one world after all :) In fact those people that love you will always want you to feel good about yourself. What the author is identifying is not that life outside of school is uncaring, it's that it is much harder. Problems that you deal with in school arn't problems at all, they've already been solved. They are tests. Outside of school you'll see real problems and if you've never faced a real problem it can be traumatic. Failing at hard things is very common and students might not be used to it.
Rule No. 3: Sorry, you won't make $40,000 a year right out of high school. And you won't be a vice president or have a car phone either. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn't have a Gap label. Cute anachronisms aside there is much more to this point that should go into an education. Given early academic choices what can you expect from the job market? There are well documented statistics, and if you graduate from school without an awareness of these, you're in trouble. Your degree in philosophy will put you at the Gap, but your CS degree will probably have a better return.
Rule No. 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait 'til you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he's not going to ask you how you feel about it.
This observation makes me very sad. What life circumstances forced this man to endure uncaring leadership? Almost every boss I've had did care about me and wanted to know how I was doing, knew the importance of moral and emotional health, and had my back in a crunch. The rule here is if your boss doesn't fit that description and you have any choice at all, leave and leave fast.
Rule No. 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grand-parents had a different word of burger flipping. They called it opportunity. They weren't embarrassed making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain all weekend.
Pride is a powerful thing. Flipping burgers should be beneath anyone's dignity. They should be so mad at having to flip burgers that they will do anything, go to great lengths so that they don't have to anymore. Maybe they will even invent an automated way to flip burgers :)
Rule No. 6: It's not your parents' fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of "It's my life," and "You're not the boss of me," and other eloquent proclamations of your generation. When you turn 18, it's on your dime. Don't whine about it, or you'll sound like a
Again I feel bad for this guy, somewhere along the way he lost his support network and grew a highly jaded skin. Parents are there to catch you when you fall, if your 5, 10, or 50. The only job a parent has is to see the success and continuation of their offspring. People who don't feel this way shouldn't be parents in the first place. Great parents however will never need to do this though because children destined for happy lives and great things take pride in personal ability, accomplishment, and independence. Being an adult means that you don't need to ask for help very often but you arn't afraid to when you do. It's a very hard line to walk and that's the lesson children often miss.
Rule No. 7: Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents'
generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.
If you resent your children it unlikely you're going to be a good parent. Now I feel bad for this guy and his kids.
Rule No. 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn't. In some schools, they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. Failing grades have been abolished and class valedictorians scrapped, lest anyone's feelings be hurt. Effort is as
important as results. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life. (See Rule No. 1, Rule No. 2 and Rule No. 4)
A few things matter in life. Winning and losing are not part of that set. Being able to accomplish your goals is important, but if you're playing a game where the only way for you to win is for someone else to lose ... YOU'RE PLAYING A GAME, and whatever it is doesn't really matter. Life is not a zero sum game.
Rule No. 9: Life is not divided into semesters, and you don't get summers off. Not even Easter break. They expect you to show up every day. For eight hours. And you don't get a new life every 10 weeks. It just goes on and on.
While we're at it, very few jobs are interesting in fostering your self-expression or helping you find yourself. Fewer still lead to self-realization. (See Rule No. 1 and Rule No. 2.)
I can't begin to articulate how saddening this mindset makes me, and I'm glad I don't suffer from it. Every day is an opportunity to reinvent yourself and the thing holding you back from doing so ... that's probably fear. Look hard at whatever you think it is, it' probably fear masquerading as knowledge.
Rule No. 10: Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs. Your friends will not be as perky or pliable as Jennifer Aniston.
Sure, but how about "Don't watch T.V." That's a rule I think we could all live with.
Rule No. 11: Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.
Rule No. 12: Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Next time you're out cruising, watch an 11-year-old with a butt in his mouth. That's what you look like to anyone over 20. Ditto for "expressing yourself" with purple hair and/or pierced body parts.
First part I'm all for, but the second? I'm terribly vanilla, but if you really want purple hair and piercings, go for it! That stuff grows back. In the spirit of the rule lets go with "Tatoos are probably a bad idea." Why? Because they last and last and last, and the impulse that made you get it will fade. On the other hand, if you consider your body a canvas, remember you only get one and having a master plan before you start couldn't hurt.
Rule No. 13: You are not immortal. (See Rule No. 12.) If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven't seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.
Actually is is terribly romantic, it is fantastic, it is totally selfish. Once you're dead, that's it. The rest of us have to go on living, so have a care for us ok?
Rule No. 14: Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school's a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you'll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now.
And to all the different ones, "It gets better." Being an adult is a hell of a lot more fun for us than being a kid ever was.